There are many MMA athletes not enjoying their journey to success at all. In fact, there are many athletes suffering from anxiety, stress, tension and even depression because of the wrong mental approach to their MMA career. These athletes often end up quitting, not making it to where they could have made it to or fall from the top because of their intense attitude. In this article I want to share with you why this may happen and what you can do to avoid it or change it.
I have met some athletes who would come to training with the goal, often unconscious (out of their conscious awareness), to prove to others that they are good. I have seen many people going into sparring rounds in prep for a fight, with the sole goal of proving to the rest of the team that they are good enough to be in the team; or perhaps, prove it to themselves, which is often the real embedded reason.
Some people become way too intense even in training. Often you recognize these people because they tend to be those who do not talk much with anybody, they rarely smile, and they may be involved in disputes more often than others. If reading this makes you feel annoyed, chances are… well, you know where I’m going with that.
Why is it a Bad Idea to be so “Intense”
The truth is that the vast majority of successful MMA athletes are those who seem more light-hearted during interviews and generally in their approach. Look at the current guys: Jon Jones, Benson Henderson, Junior dos Santos and most of the athletes who made it in the UFC are all people who seem more chilled and take themselves less seriously than many others.
You may recall how relaxed and “at peace” Randy Couture always was in his mental approach. Most of the athletes who are either going through tough times or have moved-on from large organizations altogether have one thing in common: they look tense and unhappy.
They are not tense and unhappy because the challenging times, but often they are going through the challenging times because they are unhappy and tense. Tito Ortiz, Nick Diaz, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Vitor Belfort and others have all experienced declines in their careers when they became too emotionally involved. Yes, you can call this a coincidence… if you believe in coincidences that is.
Some can argue that the decline caused the negativities and the answer is still the same: it is the negative response to the challenge that caused the challenge to be prolonged or permanent. If you look in your gym, I am sure that you will see that those who do well are also those who are more keen to talking to others, perhaps sometimes make jokes and are generally light hearted about their approach.
Why is it a Good Idea to “Lighten Up”?
So why is it a good idea to be light hearted? What can actually change?
Quite simply, your body works better! What I mean by that is that when you take things too seriously, when you become too intense about your training, your fight and your career, your body tenses up. To prove this to yourself you can do a very simple exercise that will leave you in no doubt.
Stand up with your feet close to each other and straight legs. Close your eyes and then assume the facial expression as if you were angry, sad or frustrated. You don’t need to force the negative feelings, just keep that facial expression. Keeping that face on with your eyes closed lift your right arm straight in front as if you were pointing at something in front of you. Then keeping your lower body still, turn your upper body only, rotate clockwise and stop to where you can reach. Open your eyes and make a mental note of where your finger is pointing. Now do the same with a smiley face on, not a “rhetorical smile,” a real one; maybe think of something that makes you happy and see if how much further you get now.
If you do this right you will see that you will be able to comfortably rotate more when you have a positive body language and a positive mind-set. The reason behind this is very simple; your nervous system sends messages to your body all the time and these messages match your feelings, which are a product of your thoughts. Your thoughts are generally responsible for your body language, but the opposite is also true: the body can influence the type of thought you focus on. Your nervous system is used to smiling when you have happy thoughts and frowning when you have not so happy ones.
So in short, if you have negative thoughts or negative body language or both, your body will more often than not tense up. If your body is tensed up it will not work
as well as it would if it was more relaxed, loose and responsive. This is why most people would rotate further with a smile on their face than they would with a negative expression on. The same goes for anything else that involves using the body, including fighting.
How Do You “Lighten Up”?
You can tackle your negative thoughts by:
- Sort your issues out. If there is anything in your personal life that bothers you, don’t hide in the gym as that would only alleviate the pain temporarily; do what you can to solve the issue and seek help if you need to.
- If the intense emotions come for your strong desire to succeed in the sport then know this: the more lightly you take yourself, the better you will be. Of course you need to take your career seriously, but that word has been misused. Seriously must mean professionally, responsibly and intelligently, not intensely.
- Read and apply the Power of Neuro Associations MMA.
If you find it hard to control your thoughts or your emotions, then use your body. Remember, the mind influences the body, but the body also influences the mind. Some good pointers that will help you with facilitating positive energy within your body are:
- Look up, don’t look at the ground. When you look up it is much easier to let go of the tension and find a great balance.
- Smile. If you are not the “smiley” type fine, smile inside and all you have to do so accomplish that is imagine your face smiling and that is enough. As soon as you think of your face smiling your mind has to make an internal representation of that which will force your mind to let go of the more negative internal representation that you had before.
- Take a deep breath through your nose, hold it for 10 seconds and then breathe out through your mouth slowly.
- Let your shoulders fall – relax them.
Isn’t This Common Sense?
The above can seem like common sense but the thing is that more often than not, it is only common sense after you read it.